Emotion in Motion

Maggie Cheung

Spanning continents and nearly nine decades, the glorious “Emotion Pictures: International Melodrama” showcases 62 films from the “genre that boldly endeavors to put emotion on screen in its purest form.”

In addition to masterpieces from mid-20th century Hollywood titans (Douglas Sirk, Nicholas Ray, Vincente Minnelli, George Cukor), the series also includes silent films (D. W. Griffith, Erich von Stroheim, F. W. Murnau), five with live piano accompaniment, and features from Japan, Italy, England, Africa and Latin America. Also included are “radical reinterpretations of the form” from Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Pedro Almodóvar, Todd Haynes, Leos Carax, Lars von Trier, Wong Kar Wai and Guy Maddin.

“Emotion Pictures: International Melodrama” opens today and will run through Sunday, January 7, 2018 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

Vincente Minnelli

Douglas Sirk


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No Turkeys

Aki Kaurismäki

Deep compassion and irresistible deadpan humor (and characters with odd–and oddly appealing–faces) are hallmarks of the great Finnish filmmaker, Aki Kaurismäki’s work. (His films also have many canine co-stars–Tähti, Laika, Paju–all perfectly cast.)

Six of his best films, all 35mm prints, will screen in a one-week mini retrospective, “Aki Kaurismäki,” at Film Forum, preceding the US theatrical premiere of his first film in six years, “The Other Side of Hope,” which will also be presented in 35mm.

In “The Man Without a Past” (2002), an outsider, newly arrived in Helsinki, gets mugged, loses his memory and must deal with a suddenly unknown life. Film critic J. Hoberman said, “Kaurismaki’s temperament may be sweeter than Fassbinder’s but his mode of address is no less cool.”

Shot in glowing black and white, “La Vie de Bohème” (1994), a playful take on Henri Murger’s “Scenes de La Vie de Bohème,” follows a painter, a poet and a composer on the streets of Paris. In the New York Times, Vincent Canby wrote, “Here is a fine, deceptively querulous comedy that mocks the conventions of art and romantic love while, at the same time, exalting them as the only means of salvation. Make no mistake about it: Mr. Kaurismäki is an original…”

“Ariel” (1988), which established Kaurismäki’s international reputation, tells the story of Taisto (Turo Pajala), a coal miner trying to escape a provincial life of inertia and economic freefall, who starts a “minor-key romance with a hilariously dispassionate meter maid (Susanna Haavisto).”

A bohemian shoeshiner, played by André Wilms, reprising his role from “La Vie de Bohème,” Kaurismäki favorite Kati Outinen, and a community of French characters join forces to shield a young African migrant from the authorities. “Le Havre” (2011) looks at the refugee crisis with hope for a better world.

The mini festival also includes “Lights in the Dusk” (2006) and “The Match Factory Girl” (1990), which will be shown with a music video featuring the pointy-booted, pompadoured Leningrad Cowboys (“the world’s worst rock and roll band”).

“The Other Side of Hope,” won the Silver Bear for Best Director at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival. The film screened at NYFF5 and in September I wrote:

“The Other Side of Hope,” a  tragicomedy about the migrant crisis, watches two men in Helsinki. One, Wikström (Sakari Kuosmanen), creates a new life while remaining nearly in place, leaving his wife, and trading his business wholesaling shirts for a restaurant. The other, Khlaed (Sherwan Haji), leaves Aleppo after his family is killed, and after a long and dangerous journey arrives in Finland in the belly of ship carrying coal. Where their lives intersect enriches the story with real elements of compassion and hope.

“Aki Kaurismäki” opens today at Film Forum and runs through Thursday, November 30. “The Other Side of Hope” opens on Friday, December 1 for an ongoing engagement. The film also opens at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater and Francesca Beale Theater, and runs through Thursday, December 7.

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Leo and Bruce (Birthdays and Anniversaries)


Today Leo is 15 3/4 and although he’s very slow (serious time has to be budgeted for a walk around the block) and sleepy (of course dogs of all ages do a significant amount of napping), he’s in great shape for someone defying the longevity odds.

The major change is the frequency and tone of his bark. He used to be the strong, silent type. And now he’s noisy, and often, and sounds like he’s imitating a seal–which he’s always resembled when wet.

Happy birthday, dear Schmoo.

Bruce Goldstein

To honor Rialto Pictures, launched by film programmer extraordinaire Bruce Goldstein in 1997, the Museum of the Moving Image will celebrate with a series, “Rialto Pictures: 20 Films for 20 Years.” Opening night features a gorgeous 35mm print of a Fellini masterwork, “Nights of Cabiria,” and a presentation by Goldstein, preceding the screening, of Rialto trailers.

Goldstein, Film Forum’s well-respected Director of Repertory Programming, has had a long-held philosophy that classics should be freshly introduced to new audiences and shown in lustrous and pristine 35mm prints and new digital restorations. Rialto, “the gold standard of reissue distributors,” also gives its films fresh subtitles, improving on the titles from their original releases.

With partner Adrienne Halpern, Goldstein has reissued more than 70 films. Included in the MoMI program are “Breathless,” “La Notte,” “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” “The Battle of Algiers,” “The Third Man,” “Rififi,” and one of Rialto’s major rediscoveries, Jean-Pierre Melville’s “Army of Shadows.”

“Rialto Pictures: 20 Film for 20 Years” opens today at the Museum of the Moving Image and runs through Friday, December 29.

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Off the Walls

Station House Opera, opening performance, Creative Time’s Art in the Anchorage, Brooklyn, 1983 (featured in the Museum of the City of New York’s “Art in the Open”)

The Museum of the City of New York’s exhaustive and fascinating new exhibit, “Art in the Open: Fifty Years of Public Art in New York,” brings the work indoors to examine how it transformed the five boroughs–parks, plazas, subways, empty lots, abandoned buildings, on the water, etc.– by revolutionizing the expectations of art outside the walls of museums and galleries.

“The ubiquity of public art is a big part of what makes New York City so special,” says Whitney Donhauser, Ronay Menschel Director of the Museum of the City of New York. “Experiencing the wide variety of art created for public spaces gathered together within the walls of a museum offers visitors a new lens for appreciating and understanding our city’s extraordinary 50-year commitment to public art.”

According to the Museum, “…although New York had long had a history of civic art in the form of murals and statues (including the iconic Statue of Liberty), the 1960s ushered in a new era. In a time marked by growing urban crisis, New York City activists and officials chose a path of revitalization through creativity…Their daring model for public art incorporated both the voice of individual artists and dynamic trends in contemporary art making. This modern approach kicked off in New York in 1967, when landmark exhibitions placed abstract artworks in such high-profile locations as Bryant Park, Astor Place, and the Seagram Building.”

The exhibition features over 125 pieces, by a diverse group of artists including Kara Walker, Keith Haring, Roy Lichtenstein, and Christo and Jeanne-Claude.

“Art in the Open: Fifty Years of Public Art in New York,” opens today at the The Museum of the City of New York and will be on view through Sunday, May 13, 2018. On Wednesday, November 15, at 5:00 pm there will be a free curator-led tour of the exhibition. A talk, “Love It or Hate It: Public Art and Controversy,” will take place on Thursday, November 30 at 6:30 pm.

I love to photograph public art and have shot hundreds of shows, in all five boroughs, sponsored by established organizations such as Creative Time, small artists’ groups, and some exhibitions installed seemingly spontaneously.

The most exciting piece with which to interact was “Boomerang” (1981), Owen Morrel’s sleek gray steel and mirrored environment, cantilevered 32 stories up, attached to the old McGraw Hill Building, which invited viewers to (safely) enter the void.

Owen Morrell, “Boomerang” (detail) 1981

The most moving piece, the Guggenheim Museum with a simple but devastating black cloth draped down the front of the iconic structure, was installed the first year of  “Day Without Art, ” 1989, in response to the AIDS crisis.

Guggenheim Museum, “Day Without Art” (detail), 12/1/89

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A Chicago Summer of Changes

Stephen Cone, NYC, 6/15/16

Needing a break from her depressive father (and longing for a teenager’s summertime meaure of freedom), lovely and uneasy 16-year-old Cyd (Jessie Pinnick, travels from South Carolina to Chicago to spend time with her aunt, Miranda (Rebecca Spence), a famous novelist. Mostly unknown to each other, Cyd and Miranda slowly reveal themselves in director and writer Stephen Cone’s latest feature, “Princess Cyd.”

Cyd, largely unsophisticated, is intrigued by Miranda’s interest in and deep knowledge of literature, Christian theology, and food. The teenager is in a state of wide-open personal discovery. Jogging one day, Cyd gets lost and in a café asks for directions from Katie (Malic White), the slight and androgynous barista. The chance encounter leads to an exploration of sexuality and love.

Shot in only 18 days, the film is infused with the warmth of an urban summer and human relationships. Cone is a particularly skilled director of ensembles, elegantly demonstrated in a  party scene in which Miranda gathers and feeds her friends from academia and church, who take over her house and spill into her yard. A particularly lovely interlude has aunt and nice hanging out in stylish bathing suits on Mirand’a velvety green lawn.

But it’s not just the young who find the summer a transformative time, and Miranda’s relationship with her best friend, author and journalist Anthony (James Vincent Meredith), and single father of a young son, begins to shift.

I was watching the last 1/2 hour of “Princess Cyd” when the director arrived early for our shoot. We then watched together, which could have been awkward, had I not been totally absorbed by the film (and really liked Cone’s previous feature, “Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party” and our previous shoot).

“Princess Cyd” opens today at the Museum of the Moving Image, included in an early career retrospective of Cone’s eight features and numerous shorts, “Talk About the Passion: Stephen Cone’s First Act,” in which he “dexterously explores, and sometimes explodes the borders between comedy and drama, community and the self, faith and sexuality, sincerity and performance.” The director and Jessie Pinnick will be in person tonight at the 7:30 pm show. See schedule for special appearances by Stephen Cone, Austin Pendleton, Alex Ross Perry, Vadim Rizov, Nellie Killian, Nick Pinkerton and others.  The film is also playing in Chicago at the Gene Siskel Film Center and will open Friday, December 1 in Los Angeles.

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“A Combination of Michael Haneke and Larry David”

Ruben Östlund

Director and writer Ruben Östlund’s new satire, the unlikely 2017 Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or winner, “The Square,” like his earlier films, closely observes human behavior for the gulf between what his characters believe and how they put it into practice.

Christian (Claes Bang), a well-respected curator of a contemporary art museum in Stockholm, wears hip yet elegant suits, an esthetic echoed in his large apartment. Of course he drives a Tesla. He’s also a surprisingly devoted, divorced father of two pre-teen blonde daughters.

One morning, arriving at work, he’s scammed in the plaza in front of the museum by a group of grifters who make off with his cellphone and wallet, and as he initially believes, heirloom cufflinks that had been his grandfather’s.

Enraged, he allows the crime to dominate his thoughts, leading to careless bad (and uncomfortably funny) behavior. Distracted, he neglects to monitor the preparations leading up to the opening of the new exhibit, a four-by-four-meter zone, “The Square,” installed in front of the museum, inscribed, “The Square is a sanctuary of trust and caring. Within it we all share equal rights and obligations.”

While he’s making excursions to recover his property and having a post-museum event one-night stand with an unhinged American (Elizabeth Moss), passing herself off as an art writer (who may have a monkey roommate), his colleagues have hired a pair of trendy young disruptors, PR specialists, who understand viral but not the work or the museum’s place in the art world, to create an attention-grabbing video to promote the show.

Of course things go outlandishly wrong, culminating in perhaps the most uncomfortable glittering gala, dominated by the film’s second monkey.

“The Square” will open on Friday, October 27 at IFC Center and the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, and in Los Angeles. A national expansion will follow in November. 

In this year’s New York Film Festival’s first NYFF live discussion, Östlund, discussed his work, and when asked about another of cinema’s famous provocateurs,  Michael Haneke, said, “I can relate to Michael Haneke…he always puts the characters in context…doesn’t blame the characters…their actions were dependent on where they are.”

And asked if he feels that comparisons between his work and the Austrian auteur’s are apt, he agreed and added that his work also shares elements with Larry David’s. 

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If a Poplar Falls in the Forest (Stillwater Diary)

Ryder, Leo and the repaired cabin, Stone Ridge, NY

It had been a dark and stormy night (and a bunch of Labradors were sitting around the fire…oops, I digress)–dramatic wind, fiercer gusts. And the next morning, from all visual indications, the sounds the poplar made as it crashed through the roof of the closer of our two little cabins (Fred’s, it had been called, decades before we got here) were those of splintering wood and breaking glass.

Unlike in “The Adjuster,”  (1991), one of my favorite Atom Egoyan movies, Elias Koteas, playing an insurance agent, didn’t arrive to help, flipping how photos usually work. As his character does his job, rather than pictures gathering in a bit of the world, taking reality and making it 2D, flat images of what was lost are re-inflated, restored to 3D.

The insurance company, without a fuss, sent a check. We hired Dave and his partner. And, just recently, months after the destruction occurred (contractors move in mysterious ways), the cabin repairs were finally completed (and, a bonus, extra stuff that had lingered inside as we procrastinated over many seasons, was cleaned out).

Cabin with a poplar through its roof, and a tarp, Stone Ridge, NY

Ryder and the cabin, work stalled, Stone Ridge, NY

Another view of the cabin’s repaired window, wall and roof, Stone Ridge, NY

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